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The countdown to save a cardiomyopathy patient’s life

In May 2012, John Hobbs, a patient at Piedmont Heart Institute, was preparing to go on a mission trip to China in a month’s time. Hobbs noticed he had been feeling exhausted lately – he couldn’t catch his breath after walking to the mailbox and even while sitting still. “If I couldn’t walk to the mailbox and back, the Great Wall [of China] was probably going to be a challenge for me,” he says.

Hobbs went to see his physician, who ran blood tests and then recommended a stress test. By the time he got home from the stress test, he received a call that he needed to return to the hospital right away. His physicians told him he wasn’t going anywhere – especially not on an overseas trip to China.

Hobbs' diagnosis

Hobbs was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy by Nimish Dhruva, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart. The condition weakened his heart to the point where it was only pumping at 30 percent.  Normal function is 55 to 60 percent. “That’s why I was having such a hard time breathing – I wasn’t getting blood flowing through my body,” he explains.

Dr. Dhruva and Charan Kantipudi, M.D., a Piedmont Heart electrophysiologist, determined that Hobbs needed a cardiac resynchronization therapy device called CRT-D to regain heart function. A CRT-D is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator that also has the ability to pace the heart.

“Advancements in medicine have brought us devices like the CRT-D, which helps us give people with heart problems a second chance,” said Dr. Kantipudi. “While patients typically see a marked improvement in heart function, we don’t always see patients’ hearts pump at a completely normal level like John’s did. If something like this happened to John 20 years ago, there is a good chance he wouldn’t be around today.”

The 90-day countdown and recovery

However, per his insurance company’s policies, Hobbs was required to take medication for 90 days from the date of diagnosis before he could receive the CRT-D. “As the months went on, I was getting worse and worse,” he says. “Every time I went to the doctor, they said, ‘You’re a walking cardiac arrest,’ and we’re hoping you make it to the end of August.”

Hobbs spent his summer taking the medication and resting as much as possible. When he hit the 90-day mark, he went to the hospital and received the CRT-D.

I pretty quickly began to feel better and get my breath,” says Hobbs.

Hobbs says his doctors cautioned him that he would likely never return to normal heart function, even after receiving the device. “We were shooting for 40 to 45 percent,” he explains. “They called me blown away that I was back to the 55 to 60 percent [range].” Hobbs says he now feels back to normal and recently returned from a mission trip to China, where he spent two weeks walking miles every day.

“I’m trying to strengthen my heart and get it stronger and stronger as I go,” he says. “I’m very grateful for the device, the medications and for my life. I’m trying to take better care of myself.” For more information on cardiomyopathy and treatment options, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.



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